“The greatest injustice the federal government has imposed on Indian people during the 20th century is to make us citizens, but deny us most of the basic rights of citizenship. . . .
“Democracy is not simply the existence of free and fair elections, which I would argue often do not exist in tribal elections. Democracy is also defined by limiting the power of the government by such things as the rule of law, separation of powers, checks on the power of each branch of government, equality under the law, impartial courts, due process, and protection of the basic liberties of speech, assembly, press, and property. These do not exist on Indian reservations. . . .
“James Madison, a founding father and signer of the U.S. Constitution, said that government with no separation of powers and no checks and balances is the very definition of tyranny. That is what we have on America’s Indian reservations. . . .
“Let it be said right now that sovereign immunity has nothing to do with Indian culture or tradition. It is a concept that developed in the Roman empire and was used by European monarchs to protect them from challenge or criticism. Tribal sovereign immunity has essentially told a generation of tribal leaders that once they are in office they are above the law and can do whatever they please. The only culture that tribal sovereign immunity is protecting is a culture of corruption, denial of rights, and unaccountability.
“In closing, I would like to quote a great American, the late Dr. Martin Luther King. He said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
— Oral testimony of William J. Lawrence, J.D.; publisher of the Native American Press/Ojibwe News, former BIA official, and member of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians; given to the U. S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in Seattle, Washington on April 7, 1998.